February 18th, 2015
Today, the Ohio Supreme Court issued its opinion in the Munroe Falls v. Beck Energy Corporation. Munroe Falls asserted its authority to regulate drilling activities within the city, while Beck Energy claimed that regulating oil and gas extraction falls under the jurisdiction of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
The ruling by the state Supreme Court adds to the mounting evidence that the people of Ohio do not live in a democracy, and are preempted from regulating the activities of the oil and gas industry to protect their own health, safety, and welfare. The justices laid yet another brick in the money-paved road to turn Ohio communities into resource colonies for the oil and gas industry’s profit.
Indeed, nowhere in this decision do the majority of justices acknowledge the peoples’ inalienable rights to local self-government, and the right to protect their health, safety and happiness. Instead, they elevate the corporate claimed “right” to frack, over community rights to not be fracked.
Consent of the governed no longer matters in the three branches of our state government. All have been captured by corporate cash, corporate corruption, corporate law-making and corporate privileges held supreme over the general rights of the people.
However, at least one justice recognizes the injustice of the decision. Justice O’Neill was particularly critical in his dissenting opinion:
The Ohio General Assembly has created a zookeeper to feed the elephant in the living room. What the drilling industry has bought and paid for in campaign contributions they shall receive.
If Ohio communities accept this decision, they accept that they have no authority to regulate drilling, fracking, injected waste, and pipelines.
What if Civil Rights advocates had accepted “separate but equal?” What if women’s rights advocates and Abolitionists had accepted women and African Americans as property?
As well, the Ohio Community Rights Network (OHCRN), our partner communities, and allies, make the distinction between regulating an industry, and governing our communities. To regulate the oil and gas industry is to allow the harms while trying to make them somewhat less. To govern our communities is to make the decisions about those things directly impacting our communities.
OHCRN, our partner communities, and allies, reject this decision by the state Supreme Court. The people of Ohio, through Community Bills of Rights, are codifying their inherent and inalienable right to local self-governance in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their communities. The people of Yellow Springs, Oberlin, Mansfield, Broadview Heights, and Athens, have all asserted these rights by banning fracking and related activities. They chose not to regulate harmful activities, but instead assert that such activities are prohibited by the vote of the people as a violation of the people’s rights to local self-governance and a healthy environment.
Growing numbers of communities across the state are joining them, using community rights to protect themselves from fracking, injection wells, and pipelines. These Community Bills of Rights cannot be legitimately preempted by state agencies such as ODNR, or the legislature, or the courts. It is the people – and only the people – who are directly impacted, who have the fundamental authority to decide what happens in their own communities. Attempting to preempt such community-adopted laws is an undemocratic act of the state placing corporate privileges above the inalienable rights of the people. And for that, history will judge the courts and the legislature harshly, as should the people now.
Our inalienable rights – to local community self-government, to clean air and water, and to protect our own health, safety and welfare – are higher law than state preemptions and ODNR administrative edicts. Our indefeasible rights and their protection by the state are the basis for the legitimacy of state law and government. Prior people’s movements recognized this. We do as well.
The state forfeits its legitimacy when it makes law depriving us of those primary rights. The court, the legislature and this governor have presumed to surrender the rights of the people of Ohio to the corporations. They have, therefore, forfeited their legitimacy.
OHCRN is committed to helping residents across the state of Ohio to expand their right to local self-governance. We call on the people of Munroe Falls to reject the Ohio Supreme Court decision and to defend their inalienable right to local, democratic decision-making.